There have been plenty of anecdotal claims that taking a walk to “clear the cobwebs” from the brain actually works. My neighbor, who writes novels for a living, said that any time he gets stuck on his book, he takes his dog for a good long walk. “And I always figure it out before I get home.”
I just figured that he knew his characters better than he thought, and they just worked it out themselves.
However, researchers have recently found that we do get a mental boost when we take a walk. With enough claims, it seems to make sense that it happens, but now we’re getting closer to understanding why taking a walk can be beneficial for all walks of people. Whether you work in an office, are an artist, writer, or journeyman. Everyone faces a puzzle of some kind or other that needs to be thought through.
Taking a walk might be the first thing you try as you go about solving it. Charles Dickens was well known for prowling the darkened streets of London when he couldn’t figure out what Pip or David were up to in the next installment of his ongoing stories. Tchaikovsky walked two hours a day and Beethoven always walked after lunch.
A recent Stanford study set out to evaluate the effects of walking.
In the first experiment one group of people were given tasks to do while they were seated. The other group of people had to complete their tasks while walking on a treadmill. On subsequent tests that measured creative thinking, the participants who walked had better scores.
While the researchers don’t yet understand why there is a creative benefit from walking. There is speculation that other forms of low-intensity physical activity such as knitting or spinning might have a similar effect on the mind. Obviously additional studies need to be done in order to understand this interesting connection.
In the meantime, I think I’ll go for a walk.